A sustained burst of aggressive running and slick passing piloted the Papua New Guinea Hunters to a memorable 24-16 victory over the Mackay Cutters in today’s Intrust Super Cup match at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo.
Heavy rain created difficult conditions for the players and kept some fans away, but little could dampen the mood in the Hunters camp after they posted two late tries to clinch their first win on home soil.
About 1500 fans generated an electric atmosphere and they were at their most boisterous in the final 10 minutes when the physical contest was in the balance.
The gritty Cutters looked on target to spoil the home town party when tireless forward Dan Beasley barged over and Liam Taylor converted for a 16-14 lead.
But the Cutters paid a high price for an early turnover from the re-start, gifting the Hunters field possession and a golden chance to build pressure.
They were good enough to convert with a 75th minute try to Noel Zemming putting them back in front 18-16. Feeding off the home support, giant Hunters centre Thompson Teteh ignited the early celebrations when he forced his way over on the stroke of full-time.
Earlier, Teteh scored one of the Hunters’ two first half-tries to keep them in touch with the Cutters, who took a 10-8 lead into half-time.
After a physical opening which saw both teams muscle up in defence, Dan Murphy opened the scoring for the visitors and Taylor converted for a 6-0 advantage. PNG was slightly fortunate to reply soon after when a deflection from a kick bounced favourably for winger Garry Lo.
But the Hunters flyer was good enough to control the ball on his fingertips and race away to score. Mackay responded via a similar streaky deflection from a grubber kick, with skipper Tyson Martin first on the spot this time.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was tight until exciting PNG fullback and crowd favourite Adex Wera cracked the game open with a blistering turn of foot to score under the posts.
Proud Hunters coach Michael Marum said he was humbled to win their first match at home against a quality team.
While the Hunters were tonight celebrating back-to-back wins, the Cutters were left to dissect where it went wrong.
“It’s not the result we want, but they’re (Hunters) going to be hard to beat all year, there’s no doubt about that,” Mackay coach Kim Williams said.
“Overall we’ll go back with a pretty good feeling about this place (PNG), but very disappointed in the loss.”
Williams was disappointed with their ball handling towards the end of the game.
“It was lost in that last 10 minutes when we dropped the ball four times from tackle one or two … that’s it, right there,” he said.
“We were in the lead and the game was there for us to win and we lost it. Full credit to the Hunters, when it was crunch time they held onto the ball and put points on us.”
PNG HUNTERS 24 (Thompson Teteh 2, Adex Wera, Garry Lo, Noel Zemming tries; Roger Laka, Noel Zemmimg goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 16 (Dan Beasley, Tyson Martin, Dan Murphy tries, Liam Taylor 2 goals)